US Objectives in Latin America According to SOUTHCOM: Lithium, Sweet Crude, Fresh Water

Laura Richardson spoke at an event of the Atlantic Council -a think tank with close ties to NATO- where she listed the reasons why the United States has its eyes on the rest of the continent.

“Why is Latin America important?”. That was the rhetorical question posed by Laura Richardson, head of the U.S. Southern Command, in a video recorded for an event of the Atlantic Council, a think tank linked to NATO. Immediately, the US general recounted a list of reasons why the US has its eyes on the rest of the continent. The common denominator of the inventory? All the highlights derive from the “rich resources and rare earth elements”, according to Richardson’s own speech.

The military official, who visited the country last year, highlighted, first and foremost, the lithium triangle, a strategic area shared by Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. “60 percent of the world’s lithium is found in this triangle”, said Richardson and added that this element is “necessary today for technology”.

A few hours after the video became known, Bolivia’s former president Evo Morales responded on his Twitter account. “We remind the head of the U.S. Southern Command, Laura Richardson, that Latin America is not her backyard or her hacienda to exploit natural resources,” he wrote.

Another of the reasons why Latin America is important for the US according to Richardson, was the concentration of “the largest oil reserves”, including those of “light, sweet crude discovered off Guyana more than a year ago”. “They have the resources of Venezuela as well, with oil, copper, gold”, continued the general, who also highlighted the importance of the Amazon, describing it as “the lungs of the world”.

Finally, “we have 31% of the world’s fresh water in this region,” Richardson said. With this inventory, the head of the Southern Command declared that the United States still has “a lot to do”.

And she ended with a goal: “We have to up our game”.

Richardson’s statements date back to last Thursday, in a conversation to which she was invited by the think tank Atlantic Council, an organization with close ties to NATO and with striking sources of financing.

Founded in 1961, the Atlantic Council members range from Henry Kissinger to Condoleezza Rice, Republican and Democratic politicians, retired U.S. military officers and former CIA officials. Since 2007, its president has been journalist Fred Kempe, former reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

The Atlantic Council is above all interested in “building and strengthening the already deep economic integration between Europe and the United States, as well as promoting transatlantic leadership in the global economy,” reads a Business Program published on its corporate website.

Although it claims to be non-partisan and independent of the U.S. government, it may be a veritable hand-picked selection of former high-ranking officials who occupy different hierarchies on its staff. The journalist and writer Kempe, veteran journalist who covered the birth of the Solidarity Union in Poland and the invasion of Panama, is its president, but two former secretaries of state are directors: the nonagenarian Kissinger, who accompanied Richard Nixon, and the octogenarian Thomas Pickering, who worked with Clinton.

The organization instituted a lifetime directorship held by a few such as retired U.S. Air Force General James P. McCarthy and former President Howard Taft’s great-grandson, William Howard Taft IV, a lawyer who served in several Republican administrations. There is also no shortage of experts from the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. Its head, General James L. Jones, Jr. serves as interim president of the Atlantic Council.

The organization that was denounced by the New York Times for non-transparent collaboration agreements such as one with FedEx, the US courier and parcel company, defended itself through its president Kempe: “There is no doubt that the work of think tanks has more credibility than the work of pressure groups, but the only way to preserve it is through intellectual independence,” he said quoted by that media in August 2016.

In September 2018, when the Argentine crisis was not relenting an inch, the think tank decided to distinguish Mauricio Macri for “his tireless and selfless dedication to his country and its people.” On the same date, the Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, a conservative politician who co-governed with the Progress Party, a far-right force, was also recognized with the same distinction. In September 2014, the New York Times reported that Atlantic Council received donations from foreign nations. One of them was Norway, which contributed $5 million.

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Translation by Internationalist 360°